Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


2 Corinthians 12:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Lest, when I come again - And even after all that has been done for you, I fear that when I do come - when I pay you my second visit, my God will humble me - will permit me to be affected with deep sorrow through what I may see among you; as I have been by the buffetings of the apostle of Satan, who has perverted you. Humiliation is repeatedly used for affliction, and here ταπεινωσῃ has certainly that meaning.

Have sinned already - Προημαρτηκοτων· Who have sinned before; who were some of the first offenders, and have not yet repented.

Of the uncleanness, etc. - There must have been a total relaxation of discipline, else such abominations could not have been tolerated in the Christian Church. And although what is here spoken could only be the ease of a few; yet the many were ill disciplined, else these must have been cast out. On the whole, this Church seems to have been a composition of excellences and defects, of vices and virtues; and should not be quoted as a model for a Christian Church.

  1. From St. Paul we receive two remarkable sayings of our Lord, which are of infinite value to the welfare and salvation of man; which are properly parts of the Gospel, but are not mentioned by any evangelist. The first is in Acts 20:35; : I have showed you, the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It Is More Blessed to Give than to Receive. Every liberal heart feels this in bestowing its bounty; and every poor man, who is obliged to receive help, and whose independency of spirit is still whole in him, feels this too. To the genuine poor, it is more burdensome to receive a kindness, than it is to the generous man who gives it. The second is recorded in the ninth verse of this chapter: He said unto me, My Grace Is Sufficient for Thee; for My Strength Is Made Perfect in Weakness. Of these two most blessed sayings, St. Paul is the only evangelist. This last is of general application. In all states and conditions of life God's grace is sufficient for us. If in any case we miscarry, it is because we have not sought God earnestly. Let no man say that he is overcome by sin through want of grace; God's grace was sufficient for him, but he did not apply for it as did St. Paul, and therefore he did not receive it. Men often lay the issue of their own infidelity to the charge of God, they excuse their commission of sin through their scantiness of grace; whereas the whole is owing to their carelessness, and refusal to be saved in God's own way; and in this way alone will God save any man, because it is the only effectual way.
  • The apostle must have been brought into a blessed state of subjection to God, when he could say, I take pleasure in infirmities; that is, in afflictions and sufferings of different kinds. Though this language was spoken on earth, we may justly allow, with one, that he learned it in Heaven.
  • St. Paul preached the Gospel without being burdensome. In every case the laborer is worthy of his hire. He who labors for the cause of God should be supported by the cause of God; but wo to that man who aggrandizes himself and grows rich by the spoils of the faithful! And to him especially who has made a fortune out of the pence of the poor! In such a man's heart the love of money must have its throne. As to his professed spirituality, it is nothing; he is a whited sepulchre, and an abomination in the sight of the Lord. If a man will love the world, (and he does love it who makes a fortune by the offerings of the poor), the love of the Father is not in him.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me … - Lest I should be compelled to inflict punishment on those whom I suppose to have been converted under my ministry. I had rejoiced in them as true converts: I had counted them as among the fruit of my ministry. Now to be compelled to inflict punishment on them as having no religion would mortify me and humble me. The infliction of punishment on members of the church is a sort of punishment to him who inflicts it as well as to him who is punished. Members of the church should walk uprightly, lest they overwhelm the ministry in shame.

    And that I shall bewail many … - If they repented of their sin he could still rejoice in them. If they continued in their sin until he came, it would be to him a source of deep lamentation. It is evident from the word “many” here that the disorders had prevailed very extensively in the church at Corinth. The word rendered “have sinned already” means “who have sinned before,” and the idea is, that they were old offenders, and that they had not yet repented.

    The uncleanness - see note, Romans 1:24.

    And fornication and lasciviousness … - see the notes on 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:18. This was the sin to which they were particularly exposed in Corinth, as it was the sin for which that corrupt city was particularly distinguished. See the introduction to the First Epistle. Hence, the frequent cautions in these epistles against it; and hence, it is not to be wondered at that some of those who had become professing Christians had fallen into it. It may be added that it is still the sin to which converts from the corruptions and licentiousness of paganism are particularly exposed.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    We owe it to good men, to stand up in the defence of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those from whom we have received benefit, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God's hand of good to us. Here is an account of the apostle's behaviour and kind intentions; in which see the character of a faithful minister of the gospel. This was his great aim and design, to do good. Here are noticed several sins commonly found among professors of religion. Falls and misdeeds are humbling to a minister; and God sometimes takes this way to humble those who might be tempted to be lifted up. These vast verses show to what excesses the false teachers had drawn aside their deluded followers. How grievous it is that such evils should be found among professors of the gospel! Yet thus it is, and has been too often, and it was so even in the days of the apostles.